Construction of affordable apartments will move forward after Shakopee withdrew its rezoning application

A controversial affordable housing development in Shakopee will move forward, following the city Planning Commission’s move to withdraw a rezoning application for the 46-unit project.

Cress will break ground on the Prairie Point apartment complex in the spring of 2024, nearly four years after the city initially granted developer Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative a special zoning designation that would allow for fewer parking spaces and fewer setbacks at Prairie Pointe. The project sparked objections from some neighbors concerned about density and declining property values, and the city ultimately considered rescinding the zoning decision — making the future of the development uncertain.

Shakopee officials previously said they were proposing to rezone the site because Beacon had not held a required neighborhood meeting with residents and the project was taking too long.

Beacon recently held a neighborhood meeting about the Prairie Pointe project, although an email from a Shakopee official in April 2020 said it was okay for Beacon to replace that meeting with an online presentation and venue for feedback due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Bacon said they met the letter of the law, but I think they agree they probably didn’t meet the spirit of the law. That’s why they had this neighborhood meeting,” said Michael Kierske, Shakopee’s planning director. “That was the only thing we were hanging our hat on.”

Beacon spokesman Dan Gregory said the nonprofit looks forward to working with city officials to bring affordable housing to the southwest suburb.

“(Affordable housing) is in high demand throughout the entire Twin Cities metro but especially in the suburbs,” Gregory said. “If this had been closed, (Shakopee) would have been way behind the eight ball.”

Apartments could still be built in the previous zoning category if Beacon makes some changes to the project plans, Kersky confirmed.

But Beacon officials said the rezoning would have forced them to start over planning the project, wasting nearly $1 million in architectural, engineering and legal costs. It also would have required the project to obtain a variance to meet Shakopee parking rules, Beacon officials said.

“Families need these homes tonight.”

Prairie Pointe will be targeted to people emerging from homelessness, single-parent families and others earning 30% or less of the area median income. The three-storey building will contain 46 apartments.

Shakopee officials — along with city residents — also raised a situation at a Minneapolis apartment building partly owned by Beacon, where a group of armed non-residents took over the property, leaving needles, old food and human waste throughout.

A Fox 9 video about the problems with this building was shown at a Planning Commission meeting in June after a Shakopee resident suggested it.

Kevin Walker, Beacon’s vice president of housing, called the situation at the Minneapolis building “unprecedented” and said Beacon resolved the issue quickly.

Since Prairie Pointe received approvals from the city, Shakopee has enacted a property maintenance ordinance and a rental housing ordinance, Kerski noted. The property will be licensed by the city and inspected annually beginning three years after the original certificate of occupancy.

“They will be held accountable if they don’t manage the project properly, which they clearly understand,” Kerski said of Beacon. “They need to stay connected to this project, not just build it.”

Gregory, Beacon’s spokesman, said the market will not build affordable housing like Prairie Point. Beacon is in the final stages of obtaining financing to build it.

He added that additional financing is needed due to the gap caused by inflation, which has caused construction costs to rise.

“Families need these homes tonight, and it takes several years to get them through the pipeline, so it’s really great that the city of Shakopee is allowing this project to continue moving forward,” Gregory said.

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